Liberal Reforms Essay

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To What Extent did the Liberal Reforms address the causes of Poverty? At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Victorian concept that poverty was the fault of the poor, was starting to be questioned. The reports of Booth and Rowntree highlighted the extent of poverty in London and York. Disturbing evidence came from the schools of malnourished children who were unable to concentrate on their studies. The recruits for the Boer war were poor physical specimens. Booth and Rowntree identified, as they saw them, the main causes of this widespread poverty; they claimed that the death of the main wage earner, the illness of the main wage earner, old age, unemployment, low wages, large families and lack of regular work all contributed to the fact that 30% of the population were living below the poverty line. Although their motives may have had more to do with seeing off the challenge of Labour and achieving ‘national efficiency’, the Liberal Government nevertheless introduced an impressive series of social reforms in the period 1906 - 1914 through which they apparently attempted to help the neediest and weakest in society. The introduction of school meals (free if necessary) and medical inspections under Campbell Bannerman could be seen as an attempt to tackle child poverty which could, presumably, be traced to one of the causes of adult poverty. Unemployment Insurance, which provided a weekly payment for 15 weeks for those in 7 trades most likely to be affected by seasonal unemployment, and Labour Exchanges were designed to help those affected by seasonal unemployment and also help them to find another job. Sickness Insurance gave assistance for 26 weeks to those unable to work through illness, providing the services of a panel doctor and treatment in a TB sanatorium. All those earning less than £160 a year had to contribute to the scheme. This was

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